Thursday, 30 July 2009

Abu Zaad, Edgware Road


Grilled sea bass with rice and tahina sauce
simple and delicious beyond words...

Quite possibly the best restaurant in Little Beirut aka Edgware Road.


I pigged out this evening, on a most wonderful takeaway of the following-


Finely chopped grilled aubergine mixed with sesame oil and lemon juice.

Warak Inab-

Rolled vine leaves stuffed with rice, tomato and parsley cooked in water, lemon juice & olive oil.


Salad with the usual cos plus cucmber, tomato, mint, sumac, fried pitta bread with lemon and gallons of olive oil dressing.

I skipped the bread this time, in fact what I'm saying, I skip out on most carbs anyway!

Frika with Chicken-

Fried wheat, spiced Chicken, onion. Served with yoghurt

Outrageously delicious, loved the wheat and barley combo, beats couscous any day!


Abu Zaad, swoon! now my de facto resto for all things Middle Eastern

Edgware Road is THE hub of the Arab community in London and do correct me if I’m wrong, the majority of the location's Middle Eastern restaurants are owned and managed by the Lebanese. It is also possibly the only place in the country where everything remains the same on Christmas Day; the buzz, the bustle, incessant smoke from the shisha pipes and of course the said restaurants that never close on any given national holiday. As for the latter I should know, this the road I've been going to for my Christmas Dinner during the past couple of years. For the sake of argument Lebanese food defines and embodies the term Middle Eastern cuisine, somehow examples like Bahraini and Jordanian sound wholly restrictive in comparison. First and foremost I love grilled meats and I still stand by the fact that the Turks are the absolute best when it comes to kebabs (such a Voldemort type word these days); what with their cuts of meat, the marinades and the most important of all, the art of grilling (often overlooked by foodie connoisseurs). Well I don’t reside near Stoke Newington, as W2 is my domain the Lebanese are the next best thing and I’m perfectly content with that. Meze is another important feature of the restaurants in Little Beirut and to the annoyance of yours truly this selection of appetisers is best enjoyed by a group of diners. Unfortunately most of my dining companions hardly have a craving for this type of cuisine, which ultimately results in takeaways instead of me dining alone at these establishments.

Abu Zaad is one of the newest restaurants on Edgware Road, the premises was previously occupied by one of my favourite places for roast chicken and butter rice, Meshwar. Abu Zaad is also the sibling of the well-known Shepherds Bush hangout of which I’ve already written about here. The difference between the two is obvious; the older restaurant is suitably done up in a shabby but endearing Old Damascus style whereas the Edgware Road branch is as sterile and desperate as Dubai. Abu Zaad bills itself as a Syrian restaurant, erm…to all intents and purposes I think Lebanese is more accurate. I can’t vouch for the dining experience here but what I can confirm is that my takeaway dinners have been rather excellent.

I don’t do TV dinners, but I read instead. Books are one of the three things that I overindulge in, the other two are walking and of course gluttony. The above is my current crop of to-reads and I wouldn’t bother asking about borrowing books from myself; the stains and spillages left on the pages are appalling.

MsMarmitelover and fellow veggies, look away!

Takeaway Dinner One-

Mixed Grill:
Skewers of lamb cubes, chicken cubes and minced lamb (kofte) with rice (an option of chips is available, but why fuss as they’re only the frozen variety and besides rice is more authentic).

No complaints, excellent!

Takeaway Dinner Two-

Glorious Meze:
consisting of the following-

Finely chopped parsely, tomato, fresh mint, onion, a touch of white pepper and crushed wheat mixed with olive oil and lemon dressing
One of my favourite salads ever

Aubergine cooked with tomato, onion, chickpeas and sweet pepper.

Foul Mukalla:
Broad beans cooked with fresh coriander, garlic & olive oil.
Here foul (broadbean) is pronounced 'foo'

Farrouj Abou Zaad :
Grilled boneless baby chicken

For those who lambaste Col Sanders and co., please stop it right now. Most if not all of the halal chicken served in this country are of the battery species. If prepared and cooked well, you’ll be rewarded with a fine tasting but ethically dubious bird.

The poussin was excellent.

Chilli sauce is important for this dish, unlike the Indians or the Turks, the Lebanese version, which is tomato based is comparatively mild and delightful.

Takeaway Dinner Three-

Couscous Lamb:
Served with mixed vegetables and gallons of broth

Moroccan dish in a Syrian/Lebanese restaurant? I deliberated with suspicions before I took the plunge and ordered anyway. I’ve never been to Casablanca so I can’t comment on the authenticity of the dish. I was a bit at loss on how to tackle the dish, in the end I just chucked the entire watery broth onto the couscous.

The lamb was excellent, tender and flavourful. The veg was just veg, ratatouille comes to mind, typically unexciting for meat eaters.

When it comes to staples like rice, pasta, bread or even polenta, I can tolerate them, as for couscous…I dunno, I really dunno, I think I’m not crazy about it. Overall reaction- mixed.

Abu Zaad is more than au fait with me, the menu has enticed me enough. I’ve risen to the bait. Highly recommended.

128 Edgware Road
London W2 2DZ (Currently Shepherds Bush site only)


Helen said...

Well, I adore grilled meats. It is a shame we never dined together. It also appears we have similar taste in books. I remember 'Ways of Seeing' changed my life when I was a teenager.

Siri said...

I do love those Vintage paperbacks. To me they're the new Penguin. I just finished I Capture the Castle, Vintage-style, and it was a most pleasurable and pretty reading experience indeed. Oh, and if you're ever in Cambridge and fancy Lebanese, Al-Casbah on Mill Road is the way forward. In a word: Yum.

bellaphon said...

Helen- We must meet up soon, I'll dm you at some point (that is if you don't mind!).

Siri- My allegiance is with Oxford, however if I'm ever in Cambridge next (which will only mean the second time ever!), I shall consult you first. Thank you.

Unknown said...

I always had my suspicions about halal chicken being of the Panasonic ilk.....I've tried quite a few of the places on Edgeware Road but not Abu Zaad. Nice book selection.

Dad said...

Aahhh, now you're talking!!!

Mrs Dad is très pleased that you are so complimentary about the food from her native land, in particular the line;

"Lebanese food defines and embodies the term Middle Eastern cuisine"

Hold on, what am I saying? If she catches a glimpse of "Handsome Les" now, I'm stuffed!


thora said...

Yup, nice book selection. Good idea to post the snapshot. And thanks for the reminder: I have a fantastic tabouleh recipe from my ex-father in law and will search for it tonight (ex-husband was born in France and his father in Beirut - he's a great cook).

bellaphon said...

Joe- thanks for your comments. to be fair it's not only halal chicken that's AA or 9V, but the Chinese eateries, tourist trap trattorias, so called pukka pies, etc.

Dad- Humbug to you too! ;) currently growing a Charlie Chan tash to disguise myself now!

Thora- plus Fattoush! Love that as well, especially with sumac.

Anonymous said...

actually it'e me Gastrogeek (my other half Joe must have signed in- the dangers of sharing a laptop) sorry to have confused you!

Hollow Legs said...

The smell of grilled meat is the one thing guaranteed to get you salivating. I Love Turkish places, and after visiting my sister in Abu Dhabi, really got into Lebanese food too. The sheer volume of the mezes was quite daunting.

bellaphon said...

Gorgeous Geek- Two comments by default is better than nowt :)

Gorgeous Legs- Personally, the best way to eat meze is alfresco...our summer has forsaken us!

Helen said...

Of course I don't mind, it would be great to meet you.

Kano said...


I didn't understand on what basis did you make this judgement:

"Abu Zaad bills itself as a Syrian restaurant, erm…to all intents and purposes I think Lebanese is more accurate"

I am a bit confused about your source of knowledge. In you opinion, What is Syrian food? And what makes this one Lebanese rather than Syrian?

bellaphon said...

Kano- Thank you for commenting. I've been a Londoner for 24 years and I've been going to the Middle Eastern restaurants on Edgware Road for the same length of time as well. To date I've been to all of them be it current, new or extinct! Historically all the restaurants within this context are primarily Lebanese run and owned. All the menus are formulaic and that includes Abu Zaad’s; from the meze like tabbouleh and warak to the grilled meats like shawarma and kafta meshwi. By and large all the restaurants serve basically the same type of food and retain a creditable consistency. If Abu Zaad is truly Syrian as intended, then unfortunately my taste buds can’t tell the difference between its offerings and for argument’s sake, that of the Maroush chain. In London, we have a Chinatown, we have Big Little India in Southall, we have little Istanbul in Stoke Newington and we also have the Vietnamese Pho Mile- but we don’t yet have a Syrian strip, the cuisine offered on Edgware Road is nowt but Lebanese influenced, it's Little Lebanon.

I’m not trying to get into a debate, but you’re a surgeon and I’m just a humble retail salesman,; the mind boggles as to why you should be confused in the first place! If there’s an authentic Syrian restaurant in London then do let me know, as I’m all for educating myself on the cuisine of Syria. I digress.

Ben said...

bellaphon, I visited Syria in 2007 and I can't say I could tell the difference when I was there. Maybe more rotisserie chicken and brochettes, but I get the feeling Levantine food is pretty similar throughout.

Best meal I had was in a place called ar-Raqqa....feast fit for a king, knocked up in one of those cafes that don't seem to have any ingredients

bellaphon said...

Ben- Levantine is the correct description, thanks for the confirmation on both accounts.

Unknown said...

I really dont know what you guys are talking about.
Im not sure how the food tastes at this one.
The First and only experience that I have with ABU ZAAD Edgware road was one of its kind and in one word awful (terrible, pathetic, sad, shocking etc etc) I have been a regular to most of these restaurants in Edgware road and other restaurants in London, the best ones and the not so good ones too. But the STRANGEST thing I came across was here.... Me and 2 friends of mine entered Abu Zaad on Edgware Road and were given a table. We ordered our snack (or meal) which was enough of a bite for 3 of us. The bill would have totalled to around 10 pounds. ( I cant help it if what we ordered only cost us that much). As one of our orders was served we started our dinner but before anything else could be served and much before we could finish half of our first dish, we were rudely and surprisingly asked by one of the staff to order some more dish (to a minimum of 8 pounds per head) if we wished to sit there, that is.....THIS IS BLOODY SHOCKING.....then he asked us to leave if we were not ordering further..... We did not even know how to react to this unreasonable, unexpected inappropriate and inhospitable behaviour of the staff....We just paid our bill and left..... THIS IS BY FAR ONE OF THE MOST PATHETIC EXPERIENCE IVE EVER HAD IN ANY FOOD OUTLET IN THE WORLD....may it be a small time cafe or a 5 star hotel restaurant... SAD!!!!
THese guys need to go to SCHOOL BADLY....

Maysaloon said...

I was going to comment on "to all intents and purposes I think Lebanese is more accurate" but I see Kano has already beaten me to it. You see I don't think you realise just how intertwined Lebanon and Syria are from a cultural perspective. The cuisine is extremely similar and whilst the Lebanese have definitely been more prominent in the restaurant scene, it would be inaccurate to label grilled meat cubes and kebabs or other dishes as "Lebanese" only, when in fact these are a regional rather than national style of cooking. Thanks for the review, it was very interesting and yes, Abu Zaad has definitely improved greatly over the years.

chup said...

Have to agree with zaheer. They served us chickpeas that had fermented and much of the mains were on the cold side of tepid.

Anonymous said...

i have to agree with kano, i've grown up knowing that all of the foods served in these lebanese restaurants are syrian, after all syria , lebanon , it was all part of greater syria so it only makes sense that most of it probably did originate in syria, the lebanese are just better at promoting their food, or our food should i say

bellaphon said...

My good Syrian people thank you all for your comments and I apologise for the delay in acknowledging your comments. Despite the post which for obvious reasons I cannot re-edit, I think it’s more than fair to say that I’ve much to learn about your cuisine. During the past two months I’ve been embracing Persian restaurants and learnt that it’s entirely different to the Lebanese and Turkish offerings. Why…I think because the majority of the uninformed Londoners (like myself) tend to go into restaurants like Abu Zaad and take things for granted and start ordering things like hummus and kebabs. I’m humbled and I shall be more careful in future. Thank you.

My review of Abu Zaad@Edgware Road said...

I agree with the original article's author bellaphon that Abu Zaad's grub is superb. Although they don't serve many a wonderful Levantine home-style dish, what they offer is utterly scrumptious and the desserts are like nothing else.

bellaphon said...

Magic Russki- Thank you for your link and comments. Your blog looks inspiring.

eoghan said...

Went there the other day - thought it was very good without being outstanding food-wise, but for atmosphere it was perfect. I've written a few words myself, less eloquent than you, but broadly in agreement, do take a look.

As for Syrian vs Lebanese, Claudia Roden has always led me to believe that for the most part dishes are pretty similar from country to country, with particualr regional habits and traits for adding certain things to dishes etc. It's never particualrly bothered me whether I'm eating Lebanese, Turkish, Syrian or whatever...although it's nice to know when you're eating a particular regional speciality. But many dishes seem to be universal across the region.

bellaphon said...

Eoghan- Thank you for your comments and as well for the mention in your review. Great blog BTW!